Newsline for March 31, 2015

Photo by Glenn Mitchell

NEWS
1) Summer workcamp to be at new Brethren Disaster Ministries project site in Colorado
2) Open Roof Award recognizes churches who welcome those dealing with disabilities
3) Thompson Fund makes grants
4) New book shows Mister Rogers as quiet political pacifist

NIGERIA NEWS
5) Trip to Nigeria yields testimonies of thanks for support from American Brethren
6) Report from Nigeria elections: Continuing to hope and pray
7) ‘They called to us to come closer’: An interview with a Chibok girl who escaped

UPCOMING EVENTS
8) Retreat to be held for Church of the Brethren spiritual directors
9) Ethics in Ministry Relations Training offered in advance of Annual Conference

FEATURE
10) Questions still surface

11) Brethren bits: Remembering WCC leader and ’78 Conference moderator, gardening webinar tonight, letter asks President to address root causes of violence in Syria and Iraq, Material Resources shipments, May 3 is Youth Sunday, Bridgewater 5K benefits Nigeria, more.


Quote of the week:

“I attended my first foot-washing service while in seminary. The vulnerability and the love it took to serve and be served–to wash and be washed, to care and be cared for–ushered in Christ’s presence and his will and way like I had not experienced before. To love and be loved was a transforming experience that has shaped my understanding of ministry and the mission of Jesus.”

— From a blog post by LaDonna Sanders Nkosi, pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Chicago, Ill., published on the “Christian Century” website. “Blogging Toward Maundy Thursday: Be Reconciled, Then Eat” reflects on the meaning of the Brethren tradition of the Love Feast, and can be found at www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2015-03/blogging-toward-maundy-thursday-be-reconciled-then-eat .


1) Summer workcamp to be at new Brethren Disaster Ministries project site in Colorado

Brethren Disaster Ministries is opening a new disaster recovery project in Greeley, Colo., in May. Several days of heavy rain in the fall of 2013 turned five rivers into raging torrents through the hills and canyons north of Denver. The flooding destroyed 1,882 homes and left 5,566 others with major damage.

Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers will work on various types of home repair for flood survivors. Volunteer housing is being provided by a Lutheran church in Greeley.

This new disaster rebuilding site also will be a Church of the Brethren workcamp site this summer, reports Theresa Ford of the Workcamp Ministry. The workcamp is for senior high youth in grades 9 through age 19, and adult advisors. Minimum age for this workcamp is 15, but 14-year-olds may participate if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian as an advisor.

Dates of the workcamp are June 14-20. Cost is $285. A $150 non-refundable deposit is due seven days after online registration confirmation, and the full balance of the registration fee is due by April 1. Registration is open online until April 1, go to www.brethren.org/workcamps .

2) Open Roof Award recognizes churches who welcome those dealing with disabilities

By Debbie Eisenbise

The Open Roof Award  is presented annually to congregations who widen their welcome to include those who have to deal with significant physical or mental disabilities. Fourteen congregations have received this award in the eight years since it was initially established. Congregations are recognized during the Mission and Ministry Board meeting just prior to Annual Conference.

Please consider nominating your congregation or another in your district where this effort to include others is evident. This may include intentional outreach to group homes or nursing care facilities; building modifications or transportation to provide accessibility; assistance for persons who are visually or hearing impaired; program development to intentionally include and empower those who have developmental disabilities, cognitive impairment or mental illness; or advocacy for accessibility and equal treatment for persons with disabilities in the local community. Full information is available at www.brethren.org/disabilities/openroof.html . Also, look for our ad in this next month’s “Messenger” magazine.

The deadline for applications is May 1. If your congregation is interested but needs more time, please contact deisenbise@brethren.org or 800-323-8039 ext. 306 for questions. In addition to direct nominations, you can help by distributing this information, and accessing additional resources available online at www.brethren.org/disabilities .

Thank you for helping encourage congregations to reach out and include all our brothers and sisters.

— Debbie Eisenbise is director of Intergenerational Ministries, serving in the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

3) Thompson Fund makes grants

A release from Brethren Benefit Trust

The Joel K. Thompson Memorial Endowment Fund, administered by Brethren Foundation, is helping to underwrite the planned visit of Dr. Alexander Gee Jr. to the National Older Adult Conference. Dr. Gee is the founder and president of The Nehemiah Urban Leadership Institute in Madison, Wis. He will speak on “In Search of Racial Righteousness” on Sept. 9, 2015.

A second one-time grant has been made to the On Earth Peace Internship program whose purpose is to “offer skill-development and personal growth for emerging peace-builders.” The grant will enable a young person to serve in an organization working for peace and justice.

The Thompson Fund was established in 1994 in memory of Joel K. Thompson by his widow, Janine Katonah, and his children. Thompson was serving on the BBT staff when he died in the crash of US Air Flight 427 at Aliquippa, Pa., on Sept. 8, 1994. The fund supports ministries in healthcare, stewardship, peace, reconciliation, social justice, and service–work to which Thompson was committed in his life and his ministry.

— This report originally appeared in the BBT newsletter “Benefit News.”

4) New book shows Mister Rogers as quiet political pacifist

By E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey

Image courtesy of Elizabethtown College

When you conjure memories of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” flashing gently on your TV screen, remembering visits from the Queen, Trolley, Daniel Tiger, and Officer Clemmons, you probably aren’t thinking about the bold political and social statements made in many of the programs. But, Fred Rogers, in his soft signature cardigan, was one of the most radical pacifists of modern history.

In his new book, “Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers,” released March 13, Michael Long, associate professor of religious studies and director of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College’s peace and conflict studies, explores a level of Fred Rogers that most don’t consider.

“I wondered what his vision of peace looked like,” said Long, “so I went to Fred Rogers Archive in Latrobe, out near Pittsburgh, and went through his emails, his sermons, his papers…” What Long found was an undeniable correlation between significant historical events and the theme of Rogers’ shows.

If you decontextualize, the show seems sappy and shallow, he said, but if you place the programs in their historical context, you can see that at volatile times Rogers did not run away but, rather, he dealt with war and peace, racial politics, economic injustice, gender equality, vegetarianism, ecological ethics and the environment.

To the children and parents who watched, the show was simple wise council for caring for one another and for treating each other with dignity; however, it seems, there were much deeper purposes for his stories. “His mission, which wasn’t so obvious, was to make peace makers out of his audience,” said Long. “If we connect the program to its historical context we can see that it’s a sharp political response to a society poised to kill. He was deeply political.”

Rogers, from Latrobe, Pa., first appeared on WQED in Pittsburgh, but on Feb. 19, 1968, Mister Rogers Neighborhood went national on public television. In the first week he ran an anti-war series; the programming continued through 2001, two years before Rogers died.

Rogers believed that the vision of peace was not just absence of war; it also means love and compassion–not just for people but for animals. In the early 1970s Rogers became a vegetarian. “He said he could never eat anything that had a mother,” Long said. When his programs showed people eating in restaurants, there was no meat in the scenes and, Long said, Rogers talked a lot about granola, tofu and beets.

“He also had a beautiful ecological ethic,” Long said of the gentle performer. He would go out on a boat and say ask the audience how they would feel if they were fish. “‘Would you want people dumping things in your home?’” he’d ask.

His statements were powerful. Families paid attention. One of his shows featured Rogers visiting killer whale Shamu. When a rerun of the show ran soon after the release of the movie “Free Willy,” Rogers got angry letters from children asking him why he didn’t release Shamu. On another show, Rogers had a visit from Margaret Hamilton, the actress who played the Wicked Witch from Wizard of Oz. Rogers mentioned in the show that witches aren’t real, which led to reactions from the Wiccan community.

During the “white flight” of the late 1960s, in which whites began to exit racially mixed urban regions, Rogers featured a show in which he invited African Americans into his home, and he goes to their homes. “He was staking out a position with Martin Luther King,” said Long. “He was a racial integrationist.” Not long after the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Rogers brought a black police officer character to his show, which, said Long, “showed glimpses of progressive racial politics.”

Though he wasn’t “the type to march on the streets, grab a bull horn and stand on a soap box,” Long said, “his activism occurred in the quiet of the studio and in front of a camera.”

Rogers had what Long called a Freudian instinct–to positively channel destructive emotions. “He’d say ‘it’s OK to be angry as long as we don’t hurt ourselves or one another’” Long pointed out.

As an ordained Presbyterian minister, Rogers saw part of his mission as showing parables. “He had a sense that Jesus was a Prince of Peace,” Long said. “He wanted his followers to take up virtues of peacemaking.” Rogers, however, was asked to not talk about faith on the show.

In Latrobe, Pa., Rogers earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, which recognized his contribution to the well-being of children and a career in public television that demonstrates the importance of kindness, compassion and learning.

“He tried to change the hearts of people, not the just the politics of federal government,” Long said of Rogers quiet pacifism. “He tried to make children into peacemakers at an early age.”

— E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey is the communications manager and news editor at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.

NIGERIA NEWS

5) Trip to Nigeria yields testimonies of thanks for support from American Brethren

By Roxane Hill

This report from Roxane and Carl Hill’s recent trip to Nigeria highlights testimonies about how the aid of the Church of the Brethren is appreciated by members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren.

Testimonies of thanks for the support made possible by Church of the Brethren or “EYN America” as some locals are calling us:

A pastor trapped on Michika mountain: “I thought I was alone not knowing that I had someone who could be of help. I lost all hope and didn’t know what else to do when I was chased from my church. I was stranded and didn’t have a penny on me and my family didn’t have much to eat. This little sum of money means a world to me and I pray that God will always use people like you to bless others.”  
An IDP (internally displaced person) in Chinka who was put to work on a building project: “You don’t know but this project has brought us ‘blessings.’ We were idle, not doing anything and having nothing to work on or for. Being incorporated into this work has changed our view of life. We have even forgotten that we are IDPs, please don’t take this project from us.”  
The mother who received medical help for her daughter: “I had been spending lots of money but there was no improvement for my daughter until we administered the new drugs (provided by EYN). She is now responding to treatment. God has helped her using these people. Thank you very much.”  
Director of a school for displaced children: “The pupils are already settling down to their new environment and making new friends in the process. We are noticing a lot of positive behavior changes and academically are seeing improvements in pupils’ ability to interact in English.”  
Gurku interfaith IDP: “We are thankful to the leadership for involving us in the paid construction jobs of the housing project. We were able to get some money for the needs of our families. Thanks to this camp, we have hope for a better life.”  
A woman receiving a livelihood gift: “Madam, you have succeeded in putting smiles on the faces of the needy. Poverty is over for us.” Another man said, “This type of assistance is a sort of poverty eradication; instead of giving a child a fish every day it is better to show him how to catch the fish. Thank you!”  

 

What an encouraging visit! It was wonderful to connect with old friends and make some new ones.

EYN leadership has settled into their Headquarters Annex in central Nigeria. The roof has been replaced, offices are equipped, meeting space is furnished, and business is getting back to normal. Every morning starts with all-staff devotions. Last week one person prayed and thanked God for the completion of the roofing of the EYN Headquarters Annex office. It happens that two days after the roofing, it rained heavily in Jos and he was thankful to Church of the Brethren for making the funds available because it would have been a very big loss for the staff if the roofing was not done before the rainy season.

The energy level is high and leaders are poised for action. The EYN Disaster Team is functioning well and we were able to see evidence of their many activities. Overall, the team is working hard in the difficult task of meeting the overwhelming needs of EYN and its people.

EYN also used the funds to hold the Minister’s Conference. Over 500 ordained ministers came from far and near to attend this unifying event. Carl and I were able to address the ministers with a comprehensive overview of the Nigeria Crisis Response and to encourage them in their role as servants of Jesus Christ. We urged them to put their hands to the plow and to take to heart Christ’s instructions to Peter in John 21:17: “Feed my sheep.”

— Roxane and Carl Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response for the Church of the Brethren, working in cooperation with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). For more about the crisis response go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .

6) Report from Nigeria elections: Continuing to hope and pray

By Peggy Gish

[Editor’s note: AllAfrica.com reports that the outcome of Nigeria’s presidential election has been decided in favor of Muhammadu Buhari, with President Goodluck Jonathan conceding defeat. See http://allafrica.com/stories/201503311784.html .]

EYN, photo by Markus Gamache
Nigerians stand in line to vote in the March 28, 2015, presidential election.

According to leaders of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), as reported by Markus Gamache, director of the Lifeline Compassionate Global Initiatives (LCGI), the 2015 Nigerian General Elections were more peaceful, and more people were able to vote than ever expected. Yes, there were sporadic incidents of violence around the country, but not the massive violence many had feared.

The three states in northeastern Nigeria–Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa–were able to participate in the election, except for a few local areas which the Nigerian military had not taken back from Boko Haram. Most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) that are still in the state they reside in and have permanent voter cards (PVC) were able to vote. But others, who have fled to other states, were not, because of the dangers and difficulties of travel. Few displaced people currently living in Jos, and only 10 out of the 724 people in the Gurku Interfaith Camp, were able to travel to Yola to cast their ballots.

Reports of sporadic violence around the country include the following: In northeastern Nigeria, a pastor from the Mararaba area reported Sunday night sporadic gun shots at Mararaba, Mubi, and Kwarhi. People in Benue reported some threats and attacks at some polling sites, and in Borno and Gombe states, some people killed. In some other areas the party agents forced people, by threat of violence, to vote for specific candidates. Officials in the Plateau State reported some houses burned in the Quan Pan local government area and a house in Jos North. In the Rivers State, from which the wife of the Nigerian president came, people reported serious challenges between the security personnel and civilians, including a gun battle with some people killed and many injured. In Kano a special aide to the Nigerian president escaped death from political thugs preventing him to cast his vote.

In Jos there was strict security on the streets both Saturday, the day of the election, and Sunday. Security guards blocked certain streets, checking the cars before allowing them to pass. Generally the streets have been empty, shops closed, and people cautious about going out. Many Christians did not attend Sunday worship services because of uncertainty of the situation.

In spite of these incidents, people here I talk to see this as a peaceful election and call the current situation “peaceful, positive, and calm.” They just hope and pray that it remains so until and after the election results are announced in the next couple days.

— Peggy Gish is a Church of the Brethren volunteer who is working in Nigeria with the Nigeria Crisis Response, an effort that is being carried out in cooperation with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Gish is a Church of the Brethren member from Ohio, and has worked for many years with Christian Peacemaker Teams. She has been a part of the CPT Iraq team for some years, and most recently has been a part of the CPT team working in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. For more about the crisis response go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .

7) ‘They called to us to come closer’: An interview with a Chibok girl who escaped

By Carl Hill

Photo by Carl & Roxane Hill
One of the Chibok schoolgirls who escaped from Boko Haram after the April 2014 abduction, has been sheltered by a Nigerian Brethren family.

On the night of April 14, 2014, Hauwa was in her room at school when she heard voices outside. When she looked outside she saw soldiers coming toward their dormitory. “They called to us to come closer,” Hauwa recalls. “When we got closer to the men, they asked us where our teachers were. When we told them that our teachers were staying in town, they wanted us to show them where the food was being stored. It became clear to us that these men were not soldiers but Boko Haram. We were all very frightened. Before we realized what was happening, they began shoving us into cars and driving us away.”

Hauwa went on, “We were driven some kilometers to a large clearing. In the clearing were large trucks. Many of us were taken from the cars and loaded onto these trucks. No guards rode along with us in the back of the truck. We were part of a long line of vehicles. When we saw that the cars coming behind us were not driving that close, we saw our only chance of escape. As our overcrowded truck drove through a very wooded area, my friend Kauna and I jumped. We ran until we found an area of dense trees and bushes. We hid there until all the vehicles had passed by. We got up and ran in the bush and got away without being seen. We slept in the bush and finally made our way back to Chibok to my uncle’s house. A few days later, my father came and took me back to our village.”

Hauwa is a very lucky young woman. She had been attending the Chibok secondary school for the last three years. She was close to graduating before her life was turned upside down on that fateful night last April. Her father knew he could not let his daughter remain in the Chibok area. It was too dangerous. So, at first, he sent her to Yola in southern Adamawa State, where it is relatively calm. She was enrolled at American University of Nigeria, a university which had taken in other “Chibok girls” who had somehow managed to escape from the Boko Haram.

However, Hauwa’s father did not feel that his daughter was safe in Yola. In July of last year, he contacted Paul and Becky Gadzama. This caring couple, long-time members of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), had been working with a few of these special girls and arranging passage to the United States, where the girls would be safe and their education could be resumed. Both Hauwa and her friend Kauna were taken to the Gadzamas’ home. While waiting for the necessary paperwork to be completed, the girls received training in English and other studies to prepare them for school in the US.

Unfortunately, Kauna’s paperwork was completed first, and Hauwa’s ran into some snags. Kauna is in the US, and Hauwa has been left behind until matters can be straightened out. Hauwa misses her best friend, but she has been anything but idle. Last summer she met with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, who was making a worldwide appeal on behalf of the Chibok girls. Together they traveled to Spain where Hauwa spoke about her ordeal to a large gathering at a human rights convention.

In Feb. 2015, Hauwa and her father were invited to the capital city of Abuja for the Nigerian premiere of the movie “Selma.” Hauwa and her father were asked to come up front before the movie started. The audience gave them a standing ovation. “As the crowd cheered for us it made me very happy. I could see that it made my father very happy, too,” remembered Hauwa. “It was a big thrill.”

Hauwa’s story is not yet complete. When asked about the whereabouts of her fellow students, she said she does not know where they are. “Nigeria has forgotten about my classmates. Nobody is thinking about them anymore. Our soldiers are freeing many towns and destroying many members of the Boko Haram, but we do not know what is happening to the other girls that have been taken.”

When Hauwa’s father went home after the “Selma” premiere, Boko Haram attacked his village again. It was reported that her older brother was killed in this raid. She has not heard from her parents since then. “Since the network is down there is no way to talk to them by phone,” Hauwa stated. She is very upset because she does not know if her parents are alive or dead.

Despite all the things this attractive 18-year-old woman has gone through over the last year, her future still has a bright side. She is looking forward to joining her friends in the US when her visa is finally approved. Then, when I asked her about any boyfriends, the whole house erupted in laughter. Everyone started teasing her about a certain boy. However, “I’m a free agent,” said Hauwa. Our time together ended with laughter.

— Carl and Roxane Hill are co-directors of the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren in cooperation with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). For more about the crisis response go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis .

UPCOMING EVENTS

8) Retreat to be held for Church of the Brethren spiritual directors

A Spiritual Directors retreat is being planned for May 18-20 at Shepherd’s Spring, an outdoor ministry center and retreat center of Mid-Atlantic District, located near Sharpsburg, Md. The retreat is sponsored by the Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren.

Retreat leadership will be provided by Phileena Heuertz, a founding partner of Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism, along with her husband Chris. She has served in over 70 countries working to build community among victims of human trafficking, survivors of HIV and AIDS, abandoned children, and child soldiers and war brides. She has published an account of her journey in contemplative prayer called “Pilgrimage of a Soul” and has been featured on Q Ideas and Work of the People. (Her book is available through Brethren Press, call 800-441-3712.)

The Shepherd’s Spring property provides settings for rest and prayer. Single occupancy rooms will be available, and a significant time of silence will be observed during the retreat.

The retreat will begin at 1:30 p.m. on May 18 and will conclude after worship and lunch on May 20. Registrations are due by April 30. Cost is $230. For an additional $10 ministers who attend may earn 1 continuing education unit.

For more information, a registration brochure, and other questions contact Joshua Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship, at 404-840-8310 or jbrockway@brethren.org .

9) Ethics in Ministry Relations Training offered in advance of Annual Conference

A training event for ministers, “Healthy Boundaries 201: Ethics in Ministry Relations Training,” will be offered in advance of the 2015 Annual Conference in Tampa, Fla. The training is scheduled for July 10, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Marriott Waterside hotel in Tampa.

The Annual Conference takes place in Tampa from July 11-15.

“Still need to attend an ethics in ministry relations training for the 2015 ordination review? This event is for you!” said an announcement and invitation from the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.

Leading the training is Lois Grove, an ordained minister who is active at Peace Church of the Brethren in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She recently retired as minister of Leadership Development for Northern Plains District, and has served as a district board member and chair, and as district moderator. She holds an Education and Psychology degree from McPherson (Kan.) College and has completed the Training in Ministry (TRIM) program and served as district TRIM coordinator. She is a former mission worker in Nigeria, having spent five years teaching in Waka Schools in Biu, Nigeria, and spent two years teaching in the American School of Kinshasa, Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo). She was trained to lead Healthy Boundaries  201 by the Faith Trust Institute and has led multiple training events in the districts of Idaho, Illinois and Wisconsin, Missouri and Arkansas, Northern Plains, Western Pennsylvania, and Western Plains.

This training will include an afternoon session featuring a presentation on the 2008 Ethics in Ministry Relations paper led by Tim Button-Harrison, district executive for Northern Plains.

To express interest in attending this Healthy Boundaries 201 training, contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu . A registration fee of $20 will be charged, and ministers who attend may receive .5 continuing education units. Registration and payment are due by June 30.

The Brethren Academy notes that those planning to attend this Healthy Boundaries 201 training event will likely need lodging in Tampa on Thursday, July 9.

For more information contact the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, 615 National Road West, Richmond, IN 47374.

FEATURE

10) Questions still surface

By Gimbiya Kettering

Newsline reminds me that the Chibok girls are missing:
Still? Where could they be? How hard can it be to find them? Are they still alive? What are they doing to them?

A child, who lives a few block away but “on the wrong side of the tracks,” is missing:
How does that happen here? What are the police doing about it?

I watch my father hold my sleeping daughter on his chest:
Is that how he held me? How has she grown up so fast?

The just as suddenly:
Can I keep her safe?

An email arrives with a link about an unarmed black man has been hurt by the police:
Again? Why?

My best friend’s husband has cancer. I haven’t heard from her in a while:
Should I call her? Why can’t she live close enough to invite for dinner? Why did this happen to her?

It is 5:00:
Already? What am I making for dinner? What is in the fridge?

As I cook, the radio describes an act of terrorism. It no longer seems to matter if this is one that happened two years ago or two hours ago. If it happened here or there.

When will this ever end? Is peace even possible?

The Chibok girls are still missing:
What am I supposed to do about it? Pray?

Suddenly I am impatient with the way that moments of joy, my personal peaceful happiness, eclipse the greater misery of the world. And just as angry that the world, with all its grief and violence, intrudes on my domestic calm. It seems impossible that my heart, that my faith, can hold both. It feels unfair, impossible that God is present in it all.

Question:
How can I worry about what’s for my dinner and worry about global hunger? Is there enough love in my heart, in my faith, to remember those who are hungry in my community? How do I make space for the daily joys and the daily sadness? How do I make space for my concerns and those of wider world?

Prayer:
God of Enduring, Everlasting Love,
Teach me to love as You love. Teach me steadfastness. Teach me what forever means.
Teach me how to hold a peace that passes understanding.
Teach me to love continually, patiently, without judgment or fear.
Teach me faith. Teach me hope.
Teach me love.
Amen.

— Gimbiya Kettering is director of Intercultural Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. The 2015 Intercultural Retreat “All God’s People Say Amen” is May 1-3 at Harrisburg (Pa.) First Church of the Brethren. Participants will explore how we interact at both the personal and national levels, asking questions for our daily lives and for the wider body of faith. For more information and to register go to www.brethren.org/intercultural/godspeople2015 .

11) Brethren bits

— Remembrance: The World Council of Churches (WCC) is celebrating the life and witness of Philip Potter, 93, who died today, March 31, in Lübeck, Germany. He was the third general secretary of the WCC, from 1972-84, and “a global ecumenical leader known for accompanying churches around the world in their struggles for unity, justice, and peace,” said a WCC release. Born in Dominica, in the West Indies, Potter began his ecumenical involvement as part of the student Christian movement in the Caribbean. He was a youth representative to the first two assemblies of the WCC at Amsterdam (1948) and Evanston (1954). He was the first person from the newly independent countries in the world to be elected as general secretary of the WCC. Among his most memorable achievements were theological consensus document on Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, and the continuation of a campaign against apartheid in southern Africa and against other forms of racism throughout the world, the release noted. “Potter made significant contributions to the vigorous debate on the nature of post-colonial Christian mission and evangelism, the churches’ witness for peace amidst East-West tensions, the raising of questions concerning the ecological crisis, and encouragement of campaigns challenging the threat of nuclear annihilation. In this era the WCC also sponsored the development of new forms of spirituality, common prayer and music drawing on the diverse traditions and confessions of diverse churches.”

— Remembrance: Ira Buford Peters, Jr., 94, of Roanoke, Va., died on March 25. He served as moderator of the 192nd recorded Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren in Indianapolis, Ind., in 1978. The theme of that Annual Conference was “The Spirit of the Lord Is Upon Us.” He also served in many other denominational, district, and congregational leadership roles, and was a long-time executive with the Appalachian Power Company. Peters was born July 20, 1920, to Ira B. and Etta L. Peters. He was a member of Williamson Road Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va. He was preceded in death his wife, Doris Trout Peters. The funeral service was held at the Williamson Road Church on March 28.

— “How Does Your Garden Grow? The How-Tos and Many Benefits of Community Gardening” is the topic for this evening’s webinar at 7 p.m. (Eastern time). The webinar will focus on basic gardening how-to’s, such as site selection and ways to get started in a new space, as well as learning how your congregation can start growing through Going to the Garden. Participants also will take time to reflect on why it is important for people of faith to consider where food comes from and the role of gardening in our own lives. Presenters include Gerry Lee, Dan and Margo Royer-Miller, and Ragan Sutterfield. This is the first webinar in a spring series about community gardening, sponsored by Going to the Garden. Register for this webinar at www.anymeeting.com/PIID=EB56DB87874A3B .

— A letter sent March 16 to President Obama has asked the US Administration to “address root causes of violence in Syria and Iraq.” The letter from a number of American religious leaders including Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger also marked two significant anniversaries in the current crisis in the Middle East: the March 19, 2003, US-led invasion of Iraq, and the March 15, 2011, beginning of the uprising in Syria. “As US churches and Christian organizations with long and deep ties to the churches and faith communities of the Middle East, we are especially concerned about the possible repercussions of continued, and possibly renewed, US military intervention in the region,” the letter said, in part. “The voices we hear tell us that the violence and death must end, on all sides; it must not be stoked with the recourse to lethal action.” The letter noted that before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, “many warned of the dangers of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction–a claim later proven to be false. Similarly, Iraqi church leaders expressed a concern shared by many Iraqis that a military invasion would open the way for extremist manifestations of political religion. They were prescient.” It also noted that “Syrians were particularly anxious that their country would not become as unstable and insecure as Iraq had become over the previous decade, but in many ways, the war in Syria has been even more devastating: civilians continue to bear the brunt of the violence, in what the United Nations has now termed ‘the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.’” The letter urges the US president to prioritize diplomatic and political solutions, dedicate “ample” funds to humanitarian needs in the region, commit to address the increasing refugee crisis, enforce human rights, and “support civil society groups and religious leaders working to build relationships of peace and reconciliation.”

— Loretta Wolf, director of the Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., has provided this round up of 2015 shipments of relief materials: Church World Service (CWS) blankets have been shipped to Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Washington, Montana, and Indiana, for aid to homeless persons. CWS blankets and hygiene kits have been shipped to Arizona for Mexican migrant workers. A cooperative shipment of 15,000 CWS school kits were shipped to Syria by IOCC, an Orthodox organization. One 40-foot container of layettes and personal care kits was shipped to Angola for Lutheran World Relief (LWR). A shipment of 1,500 bales (approximately 45,000) quilts went to India for LWR. A 40-foot container of IMA purchased items was destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Wolf added her appreciation for volunteers who help make the Material Resources program possible, in particular a group from Western Pennsylvania District, led by Herb Ewald. “The group are extremely quick and hard workers who have lots of fun while they work,” she wrote.

— May 3 is National Youth Sunday in the Church of the Brethren, on the theme, “Always Loved, Never Alone” (Romans 8:28-39). Worship planning resources will be posted April 1 at www.brethren.org/yya .

— The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership will hold its annual Training Ministry (TRIM) and Education for Shared Ministry (EFSM) orientation on July 30-Aug. 2, at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. For a fact sheet, orientation flier, and additional information, contact academy@bethanyseminary.edu or call 800-287-8822 ext. 1820. “Please give thoughtful and prayerful consideration to those who might be called to enter these ministry training programs,” said an invitation from the Brethren Academy staff.

— A “Mother’s Day 5K for Peace” will be held at the Bridgewater (Va.) Lawn Party Grounds on Sunday, May 10, with all proceeds benefitting the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren. The effort is led by staff of the Global Mission and Service office and Brethren Disaster Ministries, in cooperation with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria). Registration will start at 12:15 p.m., with the race taking place from 1-3 p.m. The 3.1-mile course is on paved roads in the rolling hills around Bridgewater. The event is suitable for large-wheeled strollers. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome. Generous merchandise awards will be awarded to the over-all male and female winners, as well as other age groups. Water and post-race picnicking will commence after the race. Teams and individuals are welcome to run in honor of a lost friend or relative. Registration is required. For more information or to purchase tickets online, go to www.brethren.org/mothersday5k . For questions or to volunteer on race day, e-mail peterhbarlow@gmail.com or call 540-214-8549.

— A Nigerian Brethren pastor, and the father of two of the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok, Nigeria, last April, was quoted in an article from the Associated Press, published on March 18 by Fox News. “Restless nights have been the lot of the Rev. Enoch Mark, a pastor with the Church of the Brethren whose two daughters are among the kidnapped girls,” the article reported. “He said he is in hiding because he has become a wanted man by Boko Haram because of his role as a spokesman for parents of the Chibok girls. ‘I have been spending the nights sleeplessly worrying about what condition my daughters might be in,’ Mark told AP by telephone. ‘I am so disturbed, thinking of my daughters, thinking of the other Chibok girls.’” Find the article at www.foxnews.com/world/2015/03/18/nigeria-military-no-news-21-kidnapped-chibok-girls-as-jets-bomb-boko-haram .

— Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren was one of the congregations involved in a first interfaith build of Habitat for Humanity in Fort Wayne, Ind. “There’s a new homeowner at Fulller’s Landing, a neighborhood completely filled with homes built by Habitat For Humanity,” reports WANE.com, the website of WANE TV Channel 15 in Fort Wayne. “Habitat leaders passed the keys over…to the new owner of the first-ever local interfaith build home. The new home was made possible thanks to the hard work and collaboration of more than a dozen diverse faith groups.” Read the news report at http://wane.com/2015/03/19/first-interfaith-build-home-dedicated-at-habitat-for-humanity-neighborhood .

— The Shenandoah District Congregational Care Advisory Team is sponsoring a workshop on “Worship Design,” from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on April 11 at Staunton (Va.) Church of the Brethren. The district newsletter reports that the event will be Led by Leah J. Hileman, an ordained Brethren minister, freelance writer, and independent recording artist. The workshop will cover topics such as song selection; understanding keys, chords, and musical transitions; flow of worship; basics of sound equipment and mixing boards; and copyright law. Cost is $25 and includes lunch. Continuing education units will be available for ministers. Musicians are encouraged to bring their instruments. For more information contact the Shenandoah District at districtoffice@shencob.org or 888-308-8555.

— Also from Shenandoah District, a consecration service for the new Brethren Disaster Ministries utility building and kit assembly room will be held Sunday, April 26, from 3-6 p.m. “Plans are being finalized and will include refreshments and tours of the building and the District Office in addition to the consecration,” said the district newsletter.

— Virlina District holds its annual Ministry and Mission event on May 2, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at Cloverdale (Va.) Church of the Brethren. The theme is “Let Your Light Shine,” which is the 2015 District Conference theme, the district newsletter reports. Angela Carr, pastor of the Laurel Branch Church, will preach for morning worship. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., with worship at 9 a.m. Following worship, the four commissions and committees of the district board will host workshops. Continuing education credit will be available for ministers. Lunch will be provided by the host congregation. An Annual Conference Delegate Briefing takes place after lunch.

— Shepherd’s Spring, an outdoor ministry center in Mid-Atlantic District, holds its 19th Annual Golf Tournament on June 15 at Black Rock Golf Course near Hagerstown, Md. “We invite you to join us for a day of fellowship and fun with all proceeds going to Camper Scholarships!” said an announcement from the district. Cost includes breakfast, a complimentary bucket of balls, beverages on the courses, a goodie bag, and a picnic lunch. The event includes a variety of prizes. Purchase a “Super Ticket” which includes two mulligans, one power ball, and one putt chance at a $5,000 cash prize, for $20. For more information see www.shepherdsspring.org .

— May 15 is the date of the 17th annual golf tournament for the Shenandoah District Disaster Ministries Auction. The tournament will be held at Heritage Oaks in Harrisonburg, Va., reports the district newsletter. Registration forms received with payment by May 8 qualify for a discount $85 per player or $340 per foursome; after May 8 fees go up to $100 and $400. The fee includes 18 holes of golf with cart, lunch, a golf shirt, a sleeve of golf balls, and a ticket to the auction’s oyster and country ham dinner that night at the Rockingham County fairgrounds. Find a registration form at www.shencob.org .

— The Illinois and Wisconsin District Potluck is April 25, 9:30 a.m.-3:15 p.m., at Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren on the theme “Imagining the Image of God.” In addition to a potluck lunch and fellowship, the event includes worship and morning and afternoon workshop choices. Joshua Brockway, spiritual life director for the Church of the Brethren, will present a morning workshop on “Deacons and the Ministry of Reconciliation” and an afternoon workshop on “Prayer and the Life of the Deacon.” Mandy Garcia, formerly of the denomination’s donor communications, will present morning and afternoon sessions on “God’s Profile Pic.” Peg Lehman, a folk singer and music educator from Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren in Elgin, Ill., will lead a morning workshop on “The Light of Love.” Jim Lehman, a freelance writer also from the Highland Avenue Church, will provide a morning workshop titled “Some Friends of Mine: Stories About Good People.” The Lehmans together will lead an afternoon “Joint Song and Story Session: Gathering of Spirits.” Childcare will be available and sessions will be provided for elementary age children. A field trip to Fermi Lab has been arranged for students in grades 6-8 (pre-registration is necessary to secure a tour). Senior highs are encouraged to participate in workshops. Registration costs $10 or a maximum of $20 per family, “but no one will be turned away,” said the district announcement. Registrations are due April 9. Contact the district office at 309-649-6008 or bethc.iwdcob@att.net .

— A “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself” fundraising campaign has been announced by the Northern Plains District Stewards Commission, in the district newsletter. “The District Board has decided to share half of our 2015 Fundraising income with the Nigerian Church,” said the announcement. “You may recall that in the past three years the District has relied on Fundraising efforts beyond the congregational allocations to meet our budget. We have also been blessed the last three years by generous donors who have matched our first $5,000 received for Fundraising which enabled us to more quickly meet our budgeted goal of $10,000. This year’s pledge means we will all need to dig deeply into our pockets this year if we will still meet our $10,000 budget after we share half of what we raise in fundraising this year with the Denomination’s Nigeria Compassion Fund.” The commission encouraged congregations to think of creative fundraising ideas and encouraged members to give generously to the Northern Plains District fundraising campaign. Fundraising campaign bulletin inserts were provided for the month of April.

— April 18 is the date of Camp Mardela’s Auction and Flea Market. The camp is located on Maryland’s eastern shore in Denton, Md. The event begins at 9 a.m., with “browsing” starting at 8 a.m. The auction is led by Tommy Trice Auctions. Contact campmardela@gmail.com or 410-479-2861.

— Camp Harmony near Hooversville, Pa., holds a Craft and Flea Market Bazaar on April 23-25. The event is open on Thursday from 1-8 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Booths will be available for crafters, direct sales, and flea market items sold by individual and groups including congregations. “Plan now to be a part of this bazaar to help the ministry of camp.” For more information contact 814-798-5885 or harmony@campharmony.org .

— Northern Plains District notes a special honor received by Cletus Miller. The Iowa State basketball program this year included a profile of Miller from the Iowa High School Athletic Association, “with a particular focus on his long career in public education and high school sports,” reported Brian Gumm, district minister of Communications and Leadership Development, in the district newsletter. “We in Northern Plains have good reason to honor Cletus as well.” Cletus Miller and his wife, Dorothy, attend the Iowa River congregation. In retirement he is involved in the community and church, is active on the boards of community and civic organizations, and has served the district and its camp in a number of ways. In particular, he was moderator of the district conference in 1989.

— On March 23 the Korean Christian Federation and the National Council of Churches in Korea, two bodies of Christians in the South and North of the Korean peninsula, jointly issued a “2015 Easter North-South Joint Prayer” and are inviting Christians around the world to join them in the prayer. “Every year since 1996 the Easter joint prayer has been jointly worked out by the KCF in North and the NCCK in South,” said an invitation. The prayer follows in full:

2015 Easter North-South Joint Prayer

70 years since the joys of incomplete independence were reduced to the pains of separation
On this morning when we reminisce of the jubilance of resurrection
The voice of forgiveness and reconciliation resonates in our hearts

70 years, but still a broken culture rages among us
In the face of the rule of the dead powers of the military industry
We repent for our feeble faith that confessed words instead of actions

We see ourselves frightened to meet even before considering forgiveness
Such is rooted in our distrust
We confess that no love and faith for each other had ever existed

No blame was put upon the crowd that cried for the cross
Following Jesus who has revealed the path of salvation through forgiveness,
After 70 years of separation, we pray that the fire of forgiveness and reconciliation kindle in every nation of the world
Lord, lead our way

Before we fault others,
Help us purify ourselves, as we are filled with hate, anger and violence
Grant us the inner courage to reflect back on our true past
Face the hidden truth
And reunite with those who suffered unrighteous death

Give our weak selves the Holy Spirit
Let us not give up on our pursuit for forgiveness, reconciliation and unification
Amidst the despairs of death, you have shown us great hope through resurrection
Bring the new life of resurrection to this dying land

In the same way that Jacob, after crossing the Yabok River embraced Esau and danced,
Armed with forgiveness, let us cross the river of hate and enmity to unite, North and South
Wash away the agonies of separation
To give our sons and daughters one, living nation

We believe that the road of this journey would save people and give hope to mankind
In the name of Jesus Christ who never ceases to call
Into the world of resurrection,
We pray sincerely, Amen.
— The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and the Korean Christian Federation (KCF)


Contributors to this issue of Newsline include Jean Bednar, Josh Brockway, Debbie Eisenbise, Mary Jo Flory-Steury, Theresa Ford, Katie Furrow, Peggy Gish, Brian Gumm, E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey, Carl and Roxane Hill, Nate Hosler, Gimbiya Kettering, Fran Massie, Stan Noffsinger, Randi Rowan, David Shumate, Loretta Wolf, Jane Yount, and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services for the Church of the Brethren. The next regularly scheduled issue of Newsline is set for April 7. Newsline is produced by the News Services of the Church of the Brethren. Contact the editor at cobnews@brethren.org . Newsline appears every week, with special issues as needed. Stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source.